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The Birth of the Womb Chair

March 30, 2012

I’m sure children of artists might have stories of how Picasso approached a particular painting, and children of surgeons might remember the night their parents sat around the kitchen table discussing how a friend had just stumbled upon a new ligation technique.  In my case, my father, Peter Blake, was a well-known architect and magazine editor, friendly with many artists, architects and designers in the industry.

One of my father’s contemporaries was architect and furniture designer Eero Saarinen, known worldwide as the creator of the Womb Chair.  He received a request from Florence Bassett Knoll, another well-known designer, to create a chair shaped like a basket, large enough to hold pillows, and one that she could sink into to read a book.  This fabulous and very comfortable seating option has been reproduced now for decades, in many colors and fabrics, and is still widely available. It’s been hailed as an icon of postwar design, and I feel a particular attachment to it.

My mother was enormously pregnant with me when Eero Saarinen was finalizing his design.  She and my father were guests of the Saarinens at his house, and she curled up in the chair.  Saarinen, on seeing her reclining so contentedly, immediately christened it, “The Womb Chair.”  I think perhaps it was preordained for me to become an interior designer at that moment, although it took me a while before I realized my true calling.

The style of the chair is mid-century Scandinavian organic modernism, which is quite a mouthful to describe a chair as roomy and lush as this one.  Designers around the world instantly recognize it, and Saarinen was made famous by it.  He was well known for breaking the rules and inspiring new standards for modern design.  I love to see experts in their fields do ground breaking work that lifts all of us to a new level of inspiration and achievement:  when it’s combined with elegant lines, simplicity and maximum comfort, as The Womb Chair is, then it moves beyond furniture to a work of art.

Saarinen also was well-known for his other design work as well, in particular, the Tulip Chair and the Grasshopper Lounge. You can learn more at the Eero Saarinen website.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 4, 2012 8:18 pm

    Thanks for the story, Christina! I am teaching the history of 19 & 20th C design this semester and will be certain to include your story when I get to this.

  2. afsaneh mohebbi permalink
    April 22, 2012 11:17 pm

    Christina, so fun to read your story about the womb chair! I ordered one from DWR in March! I am airing for its arrival.

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